Those Who Teach, Can: Why ARE So Many Indie Authors Teachers?
Before becoming an author, I taught English in secondary schools for almost twenty years, and still do the occasional stint as a supply teacher. When my current students found out about my writing career, they were full of questions: What, you’ve really written a book that you can get on Amazon? Are you famous then? Are you rich?
While the answers to those questions are obviously a) Yes, three actually, b) Sure, so famous that none of you knew who I was, and c) Hahahahaha! , for the students, the idea that their teacher was also an author was clearly quite a novel (pardon the pun) one. The reaction in the staff room, however, was different. It was more a case of, ‘You too? My mate Jane, who works at St Michael’s, writes books as well.’
That got me thinking: Why are so many indie authors teachers, or former teachers? What makes so many educators decide to put down the books they’re reading with their students, and write their own?
First, I guess there’s the obvious reason. Teachers, especially those who’ve taught English, know what young people are interested in reading – and what they’re not. Having wanted to write for some time, but believing I’d never be able to do it, one memory that pushed me over the edge sticks in my mind. I’d just finished reading a Dystopian novel with a class of thirteen year olds. I’d found it a hellishly boring experience, but it was on the curriculum and these books were all being made into blockbuster films, so what did I know?
More than I thought, actually. As we shut the books after slavishly reading the last page, a tangible sigh of relief reverberated round the room, and one boy said, ‘I used to like reading until you made me read that, Miss! Can we just read something you’ve picked next time?’
When you’ve worked with young people for so long, learning what interests them and developing a concern for their welfare, it’s no surprise that so many teachers have written books borne of their classroom experiences. My first novel, a YA romance book that I wrote under the pseudonym Jess Molyneux (after years of seeing my real name misspelt on exercise books!) called ‘X Y, Z’, came from learning that teenage girls were reading a trilogy of books that contained not only sex scenes, but what I felt was an unhealthy portrayal of how women should expect to be treated in a relationship. I could see something needed to be done, so I wrote ‘XY, Z’ to provide teenage girls with a responsible alternative and show them that they should demand nothing less than to be treated as an equal. If I hadn’t been a teacher, that book would probably never have happened – and I wouldn’t be writing this blog post now.
No matter what their subject, teachers are passionate about reading. It’s not just about the fact that a keen reader will almost always achieve higher grades, due to their expanded vocabulary and ability to detect the more subtle inferences that only comes with reading a wide range of books. No, teachers know the power that reading has to illuminate young minds, whether it be to remove a troubled child temporarily from the problems in their life, or for the child with Autism who can’t get on with fiction, but gleefully gobbles up every instruction manual and textbook his parents and teachers can find (By the way, apologies for slipping out of inclusive language there, but the ‘he’ in this example is most definitely my own son).
When teachers are so devoted to promoting reading, it’s hardly surprising that some of them feel they have stories of their own to tell. After all, these people are far from the ignorant stereotype of ‘people who never left school’. Besides their former careers (I’ve worked with former youth workers, Guide leaders, computer programmers and bar managers; also, since you’re wondering, I can boast the polar opposites of radio presenter and estate agent on my CV), teachers are parents, carers and (Despite what the kids may think at times) human beings. They say every person has a book in them: people who are surrounded by them all day are more likely to want to let theirs out.
Despite attracting the interest of a couple of small publishing houses, I decided to remain independent, a move I don’t regret – and that’s probably due to the independent work ethic teaching gives you. You may be surrounded by students for six hours of your working day, but far more of it is conducted alone – but hey, at least all that marking means you’ve got a devilish eye for detail, which saves a fortune on hiring proofreaders!
So, next time your child tells you their teacher read them a story today, you never know, it could be one they’ve written themselves – and that’s a really good thing.
Sue Bordley is the author of two YA novels: ‘X Y, Z’ and ‘SE6’ under the name Jess Molyneux, and the contemporary novel: ‘Rescue Me’ as Sue Bordley. She has also had short stories and poems published in a range of anthologies. You can follow her on Instagram. Or find out about her books on Amazon.